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Longboat Key Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017 4 months ago

Larry Elgart remembered for his love of swing music

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The composer and bandleader recorded "Bandstand Boogie," which was used as the theme song for "American Bandstand."
by: Katie Johns Community Editor

Perhaps most known for his arranging and recording of TV’s American Bandstand theme song “Bandstand Boogie” and 1982 smash hit “Hooked on Swing,” Larry Elgart was a firm believer in swing music. 

“A reviewer said that Larry was hooked on swing and responsible for the second coming of swing where he reached two generations,” Elgart’s wife of 54 years, Lynn said. “He certainly was the new king of swing, and he enabled big bands to carry on with ‘Hooked on Swing.’”

The composer and band leader died on Aug. 29 on Longboat Key. He was 95.

In his book, “The Music Business and The Monkey Business,” which he co-wrote with Lynn, he shared that his first professional job came when he was 15. He performed at the Blue Eagle Hotel in the Catskill Mountains. His pay was room and board and a few extra dollars.

“He was shy and sweet, and he just wanted to play better all the time,” Lynn Elgart said. “He always wanted to be perfect.”

In 1954, Elgart and his brother, Les, whom he performed with for a few years, made their mark by recording Charles Albertine’s “Bandstand Boogie” for American Bandstand.

Producers Inc. was Elgart’s final agency. He worked with the company for almost 30 years and became friends with the president and vice president, Craig and Kathy Hankenson.

“He was a very approachable, very friendly person,” said Craig Hankenson, president of Producers Inc. “I wouldn’t call him outgoing because he was very reserved. He didn’t push his being famous on anyone. He was just very modest and quiet. He was very handsome with a full beard.”

Lynn Elgart said Larry Elgart spoke through playing his saxophone but always had stories to interject, and those stories are what made up his and Lynn’s book.

Lynn Elgart’s favorite story is how they met. It all started with Elgart’s music.

The two met in a doctor’s office. Lynn had never heard of Larry or his brother before, so Larry took it upon himself to educate her. He brought some of his records over [it wasn’t a real date] and as he left he kissed her and asked her to marry him. She said yes.

“It was love at first sight,” she said. “It happens.”

The two moved to Longboat Key 27 years ago. In his spare time, Elgart enjoyed listening to music, and some of his favorite artists include Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. He also enjoyed cooking and playing tennis.

When he wasn’t listening to or playing music, Elgart loved to go to the Longboat Key Publix. On their most recent anniversary, Lynn Elgart brought Larry there. He hadn’t been there in awhile, and he couldn’t walk, but he got a special wheelchair and was greeted with balloons and a cake.

But what sticks out most is his love for swing music. Lynn Elgart recalls Larry repeating the same belief to reporters.

“Swing will always remain, but it will come back in different forms,” he would say. “It will always be there.”

Elgart is survived by his wife, Lynn, and sons Brock and Brad. 

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